On leaving Facebook

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For better or worse, I consider myself a fairly principled person. That is, I’ve chosen to live my life in a way that reflects my convictions. From what I eat to how I vote to what I spend money on, I consider how those choices impact me, those around me, and the world as a whole. I consider what my actions and choices say about me as a person, and take great care to ensure I like who that person is. Ethics are important. Convictions mean something.

If you know me in person you know this to be true. It’s not about changing the world, or even changing anyone else’s mind, it’s about being comfortable with my own choices. It doesn’t make life particularly easy, but I sleep really well at night.

When it comes to the internet, I’ve always tried to have my online presence reflect my offline presence. I frequently speak out in favor of things I support, and against those I don’t. But I hadn’t considered that where that online presence was also said something about me.

I’ve known that Facebook, the company, doesn’t line up with my politics for a while and have written about (almost 2 years ago) how uncomfortable the site makes me feel. I’ve justified keeping an account there for a variety of reasons – but they are really just excuses. I was already on the site, so it was easier to stay. In every other part of my life I consider inaction to be complacent support. Why was it so easy to overlook?

Besides, everyone else was doing it. And yes, that has to be one of the worst excuses in the history of crappy justifications. And there I was using it.

Facebook has shown no respect for its users privacy. The site notoriously makes it difficult to understand who you are sharing what with, and has been known to reset privacy settings to defaults without notifying users. Defaults which share everything. Facebook tracks your usage of the web and knows pretty much everything else about your life. Facebook supports CISPA, and why wouldn’t they? It gives them a free pass to give your data to anyone. SOPA and PIPA didn’t. A service that knows everything about you, even things you don’t want it to, supports legislation that would allow it to give anyone that information without recourse – sounds great doesn’t it?

Facebook wants you to feel that the web is dangerous and the only safe place for you is on Facebook, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The list goes on and on.

I don’t know exactly how long ago I started talking about quitting Facebook, but it’s been a long time. But I keep going back and forth. It’s easy. It’s everywhere. It comes up in random conversation all the time. With over 845 million users that’s not surprising. It’s almost harder to not use it, right? I mean, it doesn’t cost anything, and even if you don’t use it, it doesn’t hurt to just keep an account there for whatever may come up, right? That has been my justification, until now at least.

My friend Peter Rojas said something the other day that felt like a punch in the gut.

He wrote on twitter “Most people disagree, but I think it’s important to not use services that you have issues with, even if they are free.”

Shit.

I knew he was right.

Usage is implied consent. Usage is passive support.

I don’t consent to this and I can’t support it. Facebook is bad for the web, and it’s bad for people. I can’t keep ignoring that.

I made the decision and made a post on my account that I’d be leaving. It got a lot of “likes.” I got the feeling that many more people wanted to leave too, but didn’t know how they would get by without it. They felt trapped. Just like I had.

Even quitting is made as difficult as possible. Look at Facebook’s own FAQ page about deleting your account. Sort past all the guilt tripping and choose the “deactivate” option (which keeps your account active, just on ice) and you are confronted with pictures of your friends and messages saying how much they will miss you. Because, obviously, without Facebook you’d have no way to contact your friends. Or that’s the myth they want you to believe. Choose the “delete” option and you are informed that if at any time in the next 14 days you log back in (which includes any apps you’ve authorized) then your account just goes into deactivated status. If you make it through all of that, and clear the 14 days, it’s still not clear if they ever delete anything. That is scary. Why would I want to keep feeding into that? How could I continue to passively condone that?

I can’t.

And that’s kind of what this boils down to. I can’t argue I’m against all of these behaviors, and keep an account there just for the hell of it. So I’m done. I’m out.

This isn’t a rallying cry, it’s simply me doing what I know is the right thing to do.

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48 Comments »

  1. I would love to see you expand on this a bit in the context of your strong support of G+, given Google’s drifting toward uncomfortable and increasingly malleable privacy thinking. Seems to me that Page/Brin define their “open web” as what data they can crawl and that they believe our identities, location, and a continuous logging of our activities should be a crucial part of that data.

    Comment by tonx — April 15, 2012 @ 11:33 am
  2. You can find an easy online guide to deleting your FB permanently with a bit of searching. I deleted my old account, but I have to use a faux account in order to maintain work FB pages.

    Comment by Star Foster — April 15, 2012 @ 11:43 am
  3. @tonx Well I didn’t want this post to be about comparing services, as that’s not my point. Facebook’s approach seems contemptuous towards it’s users, and the changes they’ve made – after they’ve been caught doing something wrong – always appear to be done grudgingly. I don’t agree with everything Google does, but I don’t feel their actions are malicious.

    Comment by Sean Bonner — April 15, 2012 @ 11:52 am
  4. @Star No actually you can’t. And there are court cases I linked to above backing that up.

    Comment by Sean Bonner — April 15, 2012 @ 11:53 am
  5. While your arguments against Facebook (and its past/present deeds that violate user privacy in some way or the other) are solid, the fact remains that user privacy on the web is a depleting phenomenon because almost every firm out there wants to know everything about us (Google, Path etc etc) because, lets face it, they know they can profit the most from us when they know everything about us.

    Facebook of course is a league ahead and one might argue that it should be more responsible and ethical. But today it’s Facebook, tomorrow it’ll be someone else.. unfortunately user privacy on the web (or respect for it thereof) is almost dead. So one might as well continue to stick to the largest network in the world. On the brighter side, there are chances you’d meet your long lost childhood friend or cousin. I did, and I am thankful to Facebook (or its reach I should say) for that. There are parts of the world where things like Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram..even smartphones for that matter don’t mean anything. But they know Facebook and it even works on dial-up.

    I respect your decision of quitting Facebook. You did what you thought was right. But you might as well go ahead and close your Google, LinkedIn, Path et al accounts, because you never know what they’re cooking with your data.

    Comment by Abhijeet Mukherjee — April 15, 2012 @ 12:02 pm
  6. Bravo sir.

    Comment by clintus — April 15, 2012 @ 12:12 pm
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  8. @Abhijeet It’s not the knowing everything that bothers me, it’s the repeated disrespect and evidence to show that their future actions will be no different. This isn’t a post about privacy. It’s an issue about using a service that has no respect for it’s users.

    Comment by Sean Bonner — April 15, 2012 @ 12:33 pm
  9. I’m in the same conundrum where I don’t really use it but I still have an account, I’m in high school so many times for projects everyone just assumes, oh we’ll just message each other on Facebook so I feel like sometimes I need it,well I still haven’t deleted mine but I’m on the edge.

    Comment by Jtranx — April 15, 2012 @ 12:37 pm
  10. One question remains though, what’s that “f like” button still doing on this blog?
    ;)

    Comment by Wolter — April 15, 2012 @ 1:49 pm
  11. I applaud your conviction. You’ve certainly made me consider whether I should continue supporting Facebook. I definitely agree that they have shown repeated disrespect for their users.

    Comment by Wes Novack — April 15, 2012 @ 1:52 pm
  12. BRAVO! I killed my FB account almost 1 year ago, and it felt great! I haven’t missed it one bit.

    Comment by Dave M — April 15, 2012 @ 4:40 pm
  13. The level of respect for users is a bit subjective, I felt that Google was disrespectful when deleting Gmail accounts without noticing people or on its forums not answering anything, one year with an Android phone made me feel they didn’t give a fuck (while constantly trying to get as much data from me as they can), I felt that they were disrespectful killing Google Reader to push their own Facebook… Same “free for users” business model, same problems.

    I don’t want to join any other silo. I got “screwed” with Facebook but it’s been useful family-wise.

    I really wish we would be at a point where installing software on a server would be as easy as doing it on a smartphone so that people would have a true control over their data. and finally stop joining clubs where the owners are scanning your ass constantly because that’s how they’re making money.

    Comment by Harold — April 15, 2012 @ 5:28 pm
  14. @Wolter – It seems I had a plugin that wasn’t wired directly into my brain and I had to *manually* go turn off the Facebook part. Thanks for noticing.

    @Harold – I think that’s a bit subjective on it’s own – Any company that is faced with shutting down a user account is going to upset someone, respect or not. And Google Reader still works perfectly fine for me – I use it every day, so I don’t think saying it was killed, or that G+ is Google’s Facebook is fair. I’m not the Google spokesperson and am not going to even try to defend them, but as I said earlier I don’t see their actions as malicious.

    Comment by Sean Bonner — April 15, 2012 @ 6:04 pm
  15. @Sean It seems to be true for now, I agree. But I know they don’t value the open web anymore, they desperately want more profit and that will happen ala Facebook. The fact that they don’t provide rss for G+ is showing and I just don’t trust them as much as before. But hey, as people sometimes companies change. Or not :)

    Comment by Harold — April 15, 2012 @ 6:38 pm
  16. I quit my FB account almost 1 year ago. It took a while to delete all my photos, untag myself from friends’ photos and unfriend my 200+ “friends”. It was a process to clean up my profile before starting the 14-day waiting period but I’m glad I did it. I had issues with FB as a company as well, but it was mostly because I was sick of it being a timesuck. I did delete my Instagram last week also because I don’t trust FB.

    Comment by Dixie — April 15, 2012 @ 7:58 pm
  17. Besides being an adolescent past time. Which actually accounts for most peoples ignorance in this matter. Anyone not taking your advice, gets what Facebook subjects them too.

    Comment by JustVoteNo — April 15, 2012 @ 8:07 pm
  18. Pretty much agreed on all points — cut loose from Facebook a couple of years ago. Here’s a Eben Moglen talk on how walled gardens like Facebook pose threats to privacy:

    Comment by Tim Clemons — April 15, 2012 @ 8:56 pm
  19. Thank you Sean.
    I deleted my Bookface for about six months stayed with Twtter and then restarted one again.
    Minus a few apps, I do post directly to Bookface, but just have Twitter post to it and I leave my Bookface totally public.
    I enjoyed your thoughts and respects you holding to your views.

    K, bye

    Comment by Christopher Battles — April 15, 2012 @ 8:56 pm
  20. Your are a good chap

    Comment by Roger Boyle — April 15, 2012 @ 11:09 pm
  21. Couldn’t agree more with this. That said I have not only removed my Facebook profiles and active groups but also started to remove my Google+ account also for the same reasoning.

    I appreciate these sites are free and that I agree to abide by their usage guides, T&C’s etc. but I also reserve the right to control my data and what I choose to upload and share and I fully expect to be able to remove the same without worrying that the Social Networking site operator retains any or all of my uploaded material once I’ve gone.

    The future of a secure social networking environment is Wolfpack online and I’ll only come back to a social networking site when this takes off or FB/Google provide the same level of security and ownership rights etc. http://www.wolf-software.com/commercial/web-services/

    Facebook like Google are far too big for their own good but sadly they have mass market appeal and mass market is vulnerable as it contains a lot of ignorance and apathy which social network companies and many more exploit to the max.

    Comment by NewWavePunk — April 16, 2012 @ 12:55 am
  22. not a loss .. even as a service, it is extremely one-dimensional, linear, and old-paradigm …

    you may miss the escapism for a week or two, but you’ll never miss facebook …

    and after awhile, you’ll see the “facebook users only can reply here” websites and think, what sheepos.

    enjoy your new free time.

    invent something! :-)

    Comment by gregorylent — April 16, 2012 @ 3:18 am
  23. This seems to be a current trend, there are more and more people leaving the main stream social networking sites, and the major reason we keep seeing over and over is privacy and/or security concerns.

    We started building a small social networking site earilier this year, the aim of which was to provide a totally secure and private social networking experience. This is slightly counter intuitive I know, hence the tag line ‘The home of anti-social networking’, but we beleive the person using the site should decide who sees what, not the person who runs the site, and that is what we offer, total control and privacy.

    We are going to be opening the doors to a public beta later in the year, so if you are interested in taking a look and maybe helping us shape the direction this goes in then check us out.

    http://www.wolfpackonline.com

    regards

    WS

    Comment by Wolf Software — April 16, 2012 @ 4:47 am
  24. I feel like people complain a LOT about online services and their privacy policies and it annoys me that people blame a SERVICE for THEIR privacy when at the end of the day, YOU are responsible for YOUR privacy online. Don’t want people to know things about you online? Don’t put those things online! I agree with you that Facebook changing policy and using the fact that most of it’s users are not internet savvy enough to keep up with policy changes is shady. But I also believe that at the end of the day, you are responsible for what people know about you online, not Facebook.

    Comment by Anna — April 16, 2012 @ 5:58 am
  25. @anna except that’s not what is happening here at all. I’m not complaining about privacy, or even a service, I’m complaining about a company and their politics and stating that I can no longer support them.

    Comment by Sean Bonner — April 16, 2012 @ 8:13 am
  26. @Wolf sounds interesting, keep me posted.

    Comment by Sean Bonner — April 16, 2012 @ 8:13 am
  27. “I felt that they were disrespectful killing Google Reader to push their own Facebook…”

    Uh, except that they have done no such thing. I still use Google Reader daily. It has not been discontinued, nor has any such announcement ever been made.

    Comment by MC — April 16, 2012 @ 9:13 am
  28. @sean Sure not a problem, you can always follow us on Twitter :) @wolfsoftware

    Comment by Wolf Software — April 16, 2012 @ 9:48 am
  29. @MC, et al.: Google may not have killed Reader in order to force G+ onto users, but they DID intentionally and with reckless disregard for its users slice Google Reader’s face open so that G+ would look prettier in comparison.

    Comment by fancycwabs — April 16, 2012 @ 9:53 am
  30. Folks – I’m going to play moderator for a moment. This post isn’t about Google, nor about Goole Reader. Those are both irrelevant here, and the discussion about Google Reader is especially out of place as it’s completely opinion based – Google Reader is still online, still functioning, and some people still like it very much. Some people don’t, which is fine, but that’s arguing about a redesign which has nothing to do with the political aspects of Facebook. Thanks.

    Comment by Sean Bonner — April 16, 2012 @ 9:58 am
  31. I am not surprised to hear that many people “liked” your goodbye message on Facebook. So many people feel trapped by FB because people who are important to us are choosing to only share pics/updates on Facebook and more often people reply via Facebook where they may not respond via email.

    In any case, thanks for sharing this and I would love to hear your thoughts on this in a few weeks/months with what the implications have been for you. IE, not being able to comment or interact on sites that only allow FB logins. Have you felt the impact of deleting your account in any negative or positive ways?

    Also, as a father, how do you share pics and interact with family members who want to see and hear about your family updates? So far I just use Picassaweb with a simple private link to share albums with family without requiring them to create a google account. This works for getting them the pics in an easy format that allows full resolution downloads also. However, it isn’t nearly as easy for people to interact and comment like people do when I post a picture or two on Facebook. Your thoughts?

    Comment by Ed M. — April 16, 2012 @ 10:00 am
  32. Like you, Sean, I didn’t trust Facebook’s shadowy privacy practices and unfriended myself some months ago. I also wondered how FB (and Mark Zuckerman) could be valued in the billions with a no-charge member website, and decided that FB is a huge data-mining operation that sells info about its members to interested parties.

    Comment by Charles Smyth — April 16, 2012 @ 10:44 am
  33. @Charles I don’t want to get into conspiracy theory really, Facebook makes a ton of cash from advertising and are public that they share/sell data so I don’t think that’s a secret.

    @Ed I use my own blog, my flickr account, even just email. I think on some level making stuff like that trivial and easy devalues it. I never paid attention to any updates from family on Facebook but I always read emails they send me.

    Comment by Sean Bonner — April 16, 2012 @ 10:59 am
  34. @Sean it was just to say that disrespect from a company is a variable (some people really lost a lot in the Reader redesign, some people find Facebook OK).

    I think everybody got the message through the years that the more cautious and the less we give data to Facebook, the better. Deleting your account being the final step. Congratulations to all the people who did.

    But then why join other silos based on the same exact business model, because they seem to be trustworthy (Path debacle)? I’m just trying to be consistent and learn from my mistakes. My main concern is not privacy (if we want to keep things private, it’s easy to not share at all) or how they sell my data, it’s censorship. And when you agree to the walled garden’s rules, “legal” abuse can happen anytime. Back to Facebook (breastfeeding BS).

    Why not stay on the open web and make a statement about that. That’s what we should push. I want more social software to connect independently with people and less silos which only want to be the next FB.

    Comment by Harold — April 16, 2012 @ 11:39 am
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  37. An interesting thread here. I think that FB is, in the majority inane but also infectious. It was fun to begin with, but it has now become boring and at the age of 36 i find it quite pathetic that I get ‘poked’ or feel the urge to ‘like’ something. I have deactivated my account probably on 4 or 5 occasions over the last 5 years and then permanently deleted it earlier this year. But that was only after I had prelonged the 14 day statutory deletion period by going back onto the site. It is incredibly and worryingly difficult to leave. Although I was initially pleased with my decision and, frankly, relieved, I soon started to question whether or not I had been to hasty. I am not sure whether or not this is because I am weak-willed or something, but I have now started a new account.

    I think the problem is, as a number of people have eluded to, is that there isn’t a credible alternative. I would value peoples comments on whether there is such an alternative and how they see the future for FB? Do you still think it will be around in, say, 10 years?!

    Comment by MattG — May 10, 2012 @ 3:13 pm
  38. Saw this on The Daily. I was actually talking to my girlfriend yesterday after I saw FB valuation of (potentially) 100B. I started wondering, what if FB becomes “uncool,” what if Oprah speaks out against it, or LeBron says FB is for jive turkeys? A massive emigration from FB could produce a 100B loss, people have never had this much power before…

    Comment by HarrisonLloyd — May 15, 2012 @ 5:18 am
  39. Solid blog.

    I quit FB for different reasons in 2010:
    Too much time wasted.
    Too much ignorance from friends.

    Has anyone tried Glassboard app? Seems more private than any social media app so far.

    Comment by Oroboros — May 18, 2012 @ 11:59 pm
  40. Thanks for being the punk, or the final straw, or the right words at the right time.

    These words were the ones that pushed me right over the edge:

    “Usage is implied consent. Usage is passive support.

    I don’t consent to this and I can’t support it. Facebook is bad for the web, and it’s bad for people. I can’t keep ignoring that.”

    I’ve let my friends know, and tomorrow at noon, I push the kill button on my Facebook account.

    Thanks again!

    Comment by Sioen Roux — May 19, 2012 @ 12:00 am
  41. Facebook Independence Day: Log off and move on by July 4th http://tinyurl.com/fid2012

    Comment by FID — May 21, 2012 @ 4:31 am
  42. Great post on this. I am in the same boat, debating whether to delete my account, and for the same reasons. I have never posted anything that would be embarrassing to begin with, so it’s not about pictures of myself drunk half naked or anything…I use it mostly for my artwork, and a private account for friends and family. Going to think on this…

    Comment by Tracey Rolandelli — May 23, 2012 @ 12:45 am
  43. Hi, Sean. As regards Facebook, I really have to agree with you; although I have to admit I hadn’t thought about all the details that you have delineated about their actions/activities. I just had a sort of intuitive sense that I didn’t trust FB. A few years ago, I had three accounts there – but only so I could run three CafeWorld games and three FarmVille games. I have long since given up on that stuff because, just like you have said, FB did not respect its users (I know the games are actually Zynga, but the two of them are hand-in-hand when it comes to respecting the users). So, I dumped one account (deactivated) and like you say I was informed that if I ever wanted to go back to it, I could without any loss of status for that account. I haven’t used the second account in more than 2 years. The third account (my primary one, actually) I only go there about once every 3 days. I don’t post much of anything and I rarely use it as a way to communicate with ‘friends’.
    Overall, I’ve come to the conclusion that FB is a giant pile of garbage (I’m being so nice). FB displays advertisements which indicate that ‘friends’ ‘like’ a certain product or game or whatever, even when I know that it’s not true.
    I am glad to know that I’m not the only one out there who thinks FB is less than totally honorable.

    Comment by David Bear — June 8, 2012 @ 10:32 am
  44. Thanks for this article and thanks for linking to rield’s Facebook article. I love to see people becoming more aware.

    Comment by Jonas — June 17, 2012 @ 3:07 pm
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  46. Is there any place or way to have an account, mail, internet server, blog, website, etc that is free of data mining by those other than with permissions??? Not one to know much about this but I am in the process of deleteing my FB because too many personas that are industry or gov trolls. Posing as FB friends, also FB deleted all my FB friends that it had collected enough information to compare with my information TO KNOW THAT OUR “interests” were dissimilar. How presumptuous that I would like to hear from people only with my interests, or rather my public view on certain topics, like nuclear!

    Comment by seedsaver1491 — October 28, 2012 @ 7:32 am
  47. @Seedsaver1491: back in 2010 MetaFilter user blue_beetle accurately observed that “if you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”.

    Generally, Any mainstream site that offers free services has a business model that monetizes you in some way, either by showing you ads, or by mining your data. Google does both. So does Facebook. The question becomes whether you think the entity providing the service is one you want to engage with, and whether the cost-benefit analysis works in your favor. Clearly Sean has made his decision.

    I’d happily pay a reasonable price for services that don’t monetize me in these ways, but I seem to be in the minority. Study after study has shown that the majority of people would rather take the ads/privacy hit than pay for a service.

    Comment by Kristen McLean — November 24, 2012 @ 5:51 am
  48. Thumbs up!! :)

    Comment by Lorina — February 16, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

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